A manatee, a hermit crab and a sea horse make an unlikely but enjoyable trio as they share facts, fun and friendship down the Eastern Seaboard.
Thayer’s debut children’s book introduces readers to Kobee—a manatee in a purple newsboy cap and yellow shirt—as he swims from Massachusetts’ Cape Cod Bay to his Florida home of Blue Spring State Park. This affable marine mammal is not alone on his adventure. Tess, a sea horse, and then a South Carolina hermit crab named Pablo join him for his dip in the Atlantic Ocean and his search for warmer waters. Through their interactions, the reader learns more about manatees. Kobee, the tale’s narrator, proves an invaluable traveling companion: He provides cover, protects his friends from close calls with both a shark and a giant sea turtle, helps Pablo locate a new shell and leads the group on their journey to his manatee habitat. Kobee has his own dangerous encounter as he, Tess and Pablo narrowly escape a collision with a boat. He warns that it’s sometimes difficult for boats to sight him. He cautions, “One of my manatee friends was badly hurt by a boat propeller.” Not to worry, though: Kobee is appropriately careful and circumvents catastrophe throughout his exploits. Thayer’s charismatic characters are further animated through Gallegos’ vibrant, color-saturated illustrations, bringing the story to life. Readers, however, are pulled away from the illustrations and the narrative at times by “Kobee’s Fun Facts,” superimposed boxes that provide facts and information about manatees. This clunky stylistic choice, however, does not undermine the information they present. When Tess remarks about Kobee’s large size, the boxed information states, “The average manatee is 10 feet long and weighs between 800 to 1,200 pounds!” Between Kobee’s narration and Thayer’s trivia, this is an entertaining tool that one can easily imagine supplementing lessons in marine conservation or biology.
A swimmingly fun, educational trip sure to be enjoyed by young friends of the manatee.